Commentary Magazine


Tribal Democrats

If you were told that a guest on a Sunday morning political talk show had lost control of his or her emotions and declared it a tragedy that a black man is currently engaged in a very viable bid for the White House, who might you suppose had said it? Perhaps former Klansman David Duke? Or a Ron Paul supporter from way-back-when?

As it happens, the culprit is left-wing pundit Eleanor Clift. This is what she said on the “McLaughlin Group” this past Sunday:

Women have waited decades to see the first woman president and it’s actually something of a tragedy that a talented African-American guy comes along at the same–this isn’t liberal guilt.

It is, of course, the very opposite of tragedy that a woman and a black man are competing fiercely for the presidential nomination. This historic first serves as living proof of the noblest of American principles—equality among citizens. Throughout the primaries the two candidates’ fortunes have shifted and shifted back. One is in the lead, and then the other, and so on. Shouldn’t it be enough for Ms. Clift that when one of them loses it won’t be because of their color or gender? Apparently not. And she’s right: it’s not liberal guilt—it’s base tribalism.

And in a piece entitled “The Feminist Case for Obama,” in yesterday’s Washinton Post, Adele M. Stan describes her own struggle with this:

I have hoped against hope to see a good, liberal woman lead this nation before I die. In the voting booth on primary day, I stared at the ballot for a long time before I marked it for Barack Obama. It was a painful mark to make.

Such sacrifice. Meanwhile, Ms. Stan’s piece was written in response to a piece in Sunday’s Washington Post, by Linda Hirshman, who complains of women voters: “They’re the only voting bloc not voting their bloc.”

It’s no wonder that the Democratic candidates have been steeped in identity. It’s what their constituency responds to. It is, for Democrats, the number one issue. As one pores over the countless arguments for this or that candidate being the “correct” choice for this or that demographic (white working-class women, elite black women, etc.) one begins to think of Clinton’s identity strategy not so much as sleazy but simply on-point.